Politics.co.uk Blog

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

They didn't mention the war. Neither will I

It's good to see that, on this day of all days, Anglo-German relations are slightly better than they were 91 years ago.

New German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle has popped across the North Sea for a quiet dinner with the foreign secretary this evening.

In a press conference taking place, in time-honoured fashion, 20 minutes late in the Foreign Office, the pair exchanged the usual compliments. Mr Westerwelle, according to Mr Miliband, is a "strong European and a strong internationalist". Mr Miliband was told bilateral relations were "excellent" and that Germany and Britain were "genuine partners, genuine friends".

As is always the case, personal relations between the pair are analysed carefully. Feedback, apparently caused by their interpreter headsets being placed too close to the microphones, provided an opportunity for awkwardness.

"I think it's a trick!" Mr Westerwelle exclaimed, apropos of nothing. Perhaps bilateral relations were about to take a turn for the worse.

Mr Miliband, somewhat baffled and just about to mention Tony Blair, tried to make light of the situation. "You think this is designed to stop me mentioning the TB word," he said, with the air of a theatrical impresario trying to convince the audience nothing is going wrong.

"No - I think it is to force me to speak English!" Mr Westerwelle replied. It was an embarrassing, self-deprecating remark of the kind the Foreign Office is not accustomed to from foreign diplomats. Perhaps over dinner Mr Miliband will be able to offer some kindly words of advice.

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